Volunteers are the life-blood of Pact and work to support our services throughout the criminal justice journey. Last year alone Pact volunteers dedicated 24,000 hours of their time to supporting prisoners and their families. Below is a blog from one of our London Court Service volunteers. Pact's Court Service provides practical and emotional support to family members throughout the court process and acts as a gateway to other Pact services that could be helpful for families should the outcome result in custody. This is Danielle's story. 

Not in this alone: By Danielle

I am a volunteer for Pact’s Court Support Service for Defendant’s Families and Friends. I am based at Croydon Crown and Magistrate’s courts and at The Old Bailey. I carry a print-out of that days court listings, which shows me where to find the trial preparations, trials and sentences.  I always visit the witness service department as they sometimes refer defence witnesses to me and are also able to suggest where I may find defendants’ families.  I tend to hop from court to court in search of defendants and/or their families and friends in need of support, or even their defence barristers. The court environment is often the first point of contact that defendants and their families have with Pact and a key part of my role is to make them aware of our varied services in the community, in custody, for prisoners, people with convictions and their families. I , give them our information leaflet, and reassure them that our charity truly cares about everybody involved in their journey through the criminal justice system. 

When the people I meet realise they do not have to travel this road alone they are immediately relieved and grateful. The interaction I have with them is usually brief but it offers a beacon of hope when they may be in crisis. This hope is vital in giving them the strength to go forward.  During my time as a court volunteer, I have been available to offer emotional support and guidance to a defendant’s wife on a weekly basis during his trial, especially in relation to the impact the whole experience was having on their two young children. I also encounter many mothers who are absolutely distraught that their children have found themselves in these terrifying situations. I can be a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold, hopefully giving them much needed support whilst they are at court. 

I have also come across a few young men who face their trial totally alone because they are too embarrassed for their families and friends to hear the details of their court case. They too are usually grateful for my offer to just sit in the gallery near them in the dock. I have also helped give some people practical advice such as which prison their loved one may go to should they receive a lengthy custodial sentence, rules of visiting, and the effects it may have on housing, bank accounts, pensions, etc.  Most defendants on trial respond positively towards me, not only to the offers of Pact’s various services, but to being treated with respect, dignity and kindness, and for giving them hope that they need not go through this process alone.  

The court staff, including judges, barristers, ushers, clerks, security guards, probation officers and witness services really value the good work that Pact’s court volunteers do, which shows how important our job is. We press on – Together, in Hope.

We are in vital need of more volunteers to support our growing services. If you could offer a small amount of your time to support prisoners and their families in the community or in prison please get in touch. You can find details of the roles available in your area by following this link. Together we can work to give even more people the chance of a fresh start.